Plainview school officials and others statewide are implementing stricter safety procedures in the wake of an emailed terror
The fallout from Tuesday's revelations of the threatening email has had broad impact: the FBI, state and local police agencies are taking the threat seriously and are investigating. And locally, Plainview and other Long Island school districts are scrambling to ensure their school buses are safe.
Superintendent said the district has enacted heightened security procedures at all its buildings, alerted all district administrators, and has urged its bus companies to implement additional precautions.
"We've asked all our vendors for extra vigilance in the pre- and post-trip inspections of our buses and asked them to be particularly aware of adults approaching the buses," Dempsey said. "We have asked them to be particularly concerned about suspicious people, not only on delivery to and from schools but also on field trips."
As an added measure, the district is keeping its buses in radio contact during any field trips, he said.
Dempsey declined to discuss other safety measures being implemented, citing security concerns.
"Any time we receive any notice of safety concerns we upgrade our usual procedures," he said. "We always want to balance our extra concerns with a sense of calm."
The threatening email made references to the terrorist organization al Qaida and the recent shooting of Congresswoman
The chilling in part, said:
"If we attack a school bus full of kids, it may have no effect on the hardened criminals that rule Albany. But it will put the public in an uproar. Our goal is to create anarchy. You'll have to kill us to stop us."
U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-Massapequa, chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, issued a short statement Wednesday on the alert, saying "I am confident that law enforcement officials, particularly the will do everything possible to prevent any attack from happening.”
A King spokesman, Kevin Fogarty, said King was not informed of the threat by the state Education Department. King's district includes parts of Plainview and stretches across eastern Nassau County from Long Island Sound to the Atlantic.
In a follow-up letter to school districts issued Wednesday, the state Education Department said that while law enforcement authorities are taking the threat seriously and continuing to investigate, they are "not considering this a credible threat at this time."
The state Office of Counter Terrorism said that other than reporting suspicious activity or communications to the state Intelligence Center there is "currently no information that suggests a change in planned activities."
"Should this change, we will notify you as soon as possible," the correspondence said. The state's follow up email did not elaborate.
The anonymous threat was received in Albany on April 1. The untraceable email made terrorist threats against state office buildings, the state Legislature and specific references to attacking school buses, authorities said. The state Education Department alerted school districts across the state to the threat on Tuesday. At least two districts, Syosset and Huntington, posted the warning on their websites.
The state's message urged school bus drivers to take additional safety precautions, saying bus inspections should be conducted with "an added sense of caution and urgency." Drivers were told to report any suspicious individual who attempted to board a bus.
Bus companies have taken added safety precautions since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, said Carmen Tomeo, vice president of ., Long Island’s largest school bus company.
“After 9/11 We’ve been getting alerts and we’ve heightened our safety procedures both inside and outside the vehicles,” Tomeo said. The procedures are taught to all drivers during training classes.
Those measures include a “pre-trip” safety check of lights and other equipment and a “post trip” inspection primarily designed to look for sleeping children or items left behind. Both inspections require a driver to check off a list of safety items for each inspection. Drivers are required to walk around the vehicle on both inspections.
The recent alert caused We Transport and other bus companies to increase the security measures, Tomeo said. Drivers have been instructed to look for suspicious packages and report any suspicious people in the vicinity of company vehicles.
Tomeo said that since 9/11, it’s important to remain vigilant: “You can’t let anything drop off the table,” he said.
“We didn’t want to alarm the parents but we told the dispatchers to make sure they are doing their pre- and post-trips and implementing all their safety checks,” Tomeo said.
Tomeo stressed there have been no incidents reported by any of the company’s drivers since the alert was issued. Plainview-based We Transport Inc. and it’s affiliated companies employ 1,200 drivers who make about 1,000 routes daily in Nassau and Suffolk counties, New York City and Bridgeport, Conn.
In it’s April 1 warning to school district’s statewide, the state Education Department said the “threatening email was sent from an unknown email account to members of the media and various state officials.” The anonymous author made threats of violence in state office buildings, against the state Legislature and made “a specific reference to school buses.
The State Police, state Office of Counter Terrorism and the FBI are investigating the issue along with other local law enforcement agencies.
The state’s warning urged bus companies to increase their usual safety precautions:
“We encourage all drivers and attendants to be watchful for unknown individuals or any suspicious or unusual behavior along their routes or at bus stops as well as individuals approaching the school bus,” the state’s message said. “Drivers should be particularly strict about unknown or unauthorized individuals attempting to board the school bus.”